11230118_10152651160503078_3437831022993451090_oWho?

Based in Mumbai, Men Against Violence and Abuse – MAVA – is a group I discovered while doing research for my play SPOILED. One day I cold-called Harish Sadani, MAVA’s founder and ‘chief functionary’, from Delhi, seeking information about how boys and young men in India develop attitudes toward women and what some typical experiences were.

harish2Harish was gracious and helpful, sending me links and information. When I traveled to Mumbai last year, we had a long lunch together. He fielded all the questions I could think of and supplied both hard data and an authentic, local perspective. You could say he answered some of the questions I didn’t even know to ask.

In the process, I learned about MAVA’s work and their small, meaningful, unglamorous but incredibly important behaviour-changing interventions. The organization is not huge, it is not fancy, it is not well-funded, it is not luxuriously appointed or thickly-staffed. But little by little, the activities of groups like MAVA have a chance at changing longstanding, deeply held attitudes.

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MAVA Needs Help

If you want to cut right to the chase, watch this short video. MAVA needs funding for its “ASPIRATION” project for young men and boys. Take a look at what you can do through Global Giving. I gave. I promise you it will be money well spent – the whole appeal is $5,000, so even very small amounts will help. If you want more information, keep reading. You can always come back to the video. Or just watch the video for fun.

In India, men are the perpetrators of the vast majority of acts of violence against women: beatings, sex-selective abortions, rape, routine harassment (‘eve-teasing’). Their sense of self requires dominance over women in ways large and small, filling both home and workplace with distorted relationships.

stories-of-change2Men are also victims of a sort, however, trapped in a socially created role that deprives them of opportunities for shared emotion, manifestations of vulnerability, and the satisfactions of child-rearing.

MAVA believes that changing the attitudes of men, especially young men and boys, is key to changing this harmful pattern.

So what does MAVA actually do?

MAVA initiatives focus on redefining masculinity, empowering women, and helping humanize men. They work with very accessible youth-friendly techniques and have trained hundreds of community facilitators and mentors. They make men aware of stereotypical gender norms and help them see more balanced, less confrontational alternatives.

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MAVA:

  • provides one-on-one counseling with men and women suffering distress because of gender violence, marital discord, or harassment.
  • runs a telephone hotline for youth with questions or problems on relationships, sexuality, or violence.
  • conducts Gender Sensitization Programmes for community groups, workplaces, colleges, NGOs and residential colonies. These programs use a wide range of techniques to encourage participation and an honest exploration of gender roles.
  • organizes Yuva Matri, a sensitizing and educational program for young men which has now spread to six districts in Maharashtra and won numerous awards.*
  • provides pre-marital guidance workshops.
  • publishes Purush Spandan in Marathi, an annual magazine with factual information, short stories, and essays on topics of dowry, beauty, vices, and sexuality, all designed to introduce new ways of seeing men and women.

The Stories of Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz

Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz are among 45 boys from 3 communities who are being shaped and mentored by a dedicated team from MAVA. Boys 13-17 are being enabled to talk to peers in their communities on matters of gender discrimination and abuse of women. As MAVA says:

Rahul16, is studying in final year at a government-run high school. Staying in a dilapidated slum in South Mumbai with his parents, one brother and a sister, Rahul has many times witnessed violence on his mother inflicted by his alcoholic father. After joining a gender-sensitization camp, Rahul reflected on the various discriminations faced by his mother and even sister. He has started voicing his angst on this and has decided to intervene in any further instance of violence against his mother.

Shafique, 17, son of a commercial sex worker has seen how his biological father has neglected his mother and stopped supporting his educational needs. At weekly interactive sessions by a social organization, he has shared his pain while growing up as a boy. Determined to change the situation by taking a job after his studies and upholding his mother’s dignity, Shafique now aspires of a society where women are not subjected to any kind of violence or where women do not live in fear of violence.

Aijaz, 14, stays in a community where many disadvantaged Muslim boys like him are deprived of basic developmental needs like healthcare and education. After attending workshop sessions conducted by youth leaders, he has realized how girls from the neighborhood are more disadvantaged than the boys. He has expressed that for changing the conservative outlook of his brethren in the community, he should begin the change first with himself. He has stopped speaking swear words and through songs and skit guided by a youth mentor, he has started ventilating his thoughts to peers in his neighborhood, spreading messages on women’s safety.

These are the kinds of individualized but powerful interventions which will, one family at a time, bring about psychological and behavioral change.

And there’s always their FB page which, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can like. Share. FB stuff.

And for those awards that I mentioned:

*Yuva Maitri was selected as the Grand Prize Winner for providing the most innovative solution to Preventing Violence Against Women at the 2010 global Ashoka Changemakers (US) competition. See more details here.

*Yuva Maitri was also selected as a ‘Best Practice in Public Service Delivery’ by the Government of India. Read about it here.

 

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